SALT LAKE CITY — One of the stars of the “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” faces federal fraud charges in New York in connection with an alleged nationwide telemarketing scheme.
Federal agents in Utah arrested Jennifer Shah, of Park City, and Stuart Smith, of Lehi, on Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The two charges carry up to 30 years and 20 years in prison, respectively.
“Jennifer Shah, who portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on reality television, and Stuart Smith, who is portrayed as Shah’s first assistant, allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release.
“In actual reality and as alleged, the so-called business opportunities pushed on the victims by Shah, Smith, and their co-conspirators were just fraudulent schemes, motivated by greed, to steal victims’ money,” she said. “Now, these defendants face time in prison for their alleged crimes.”
Shah and Smith appeared at a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on Tuesday afternoon. Neither was in custody.
Government prosecutors did not seek to hold them in jail, but requested conditions for their release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead required Shah and Smith to avoid contact with each other, surrender their passports and to remain in Utah, except for traveling to New York for court hearings. The judge also restricted them from all telemarketing activities and making any personal or business transactions exceeding $10,000, except to pay legal fees.
Both Shah and Smith told the judge they would comply with the conditions. Neither had a comment as they left the courthouse.
Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in the Southern District of New York Court.
Shah, 47, is among six Utah women featured on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” that began airing last year. She is wife of the University of Utah assistant football coach Sharrieff Shah.
A spokeswoman for Bravo told the Deseret News in an email that the network is not commenting on Shah’s arrest.
Jen Shah was able to walk freely out of the Salt Lake City federal courthouse.
Prosecutors say she was apart of a telemarketing scheme within the last decade that cheated hundreds of people out of money. #RHOSLC#JenShah@TheRealJenShahhttps://t.co/OlosQnpNGxpic.twitter.com/lmxrCxqMIh
— Morgan Wolfe (@MorganWolfeKSL) March 30, 2021
Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the New York field office of Homeland Security Investigations, said Shah and Smith, 43, flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their success.
“In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people,” he said in a statement. “As alleged, disturbingly, Shah and Smith objectified their very real human victims as ‘leads’ to be bought and sold, offering their personal information for sale to other members of their fraud ring.”
Federal authorities say from 2012 until March 2021, Shah and Smith along with others carried out a wide-ranging telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of people throughout the United States, many of whom were over age 55, by selling them “business services” in connection with their purported online businesses.
Shah and Smith coordinated efforts to traffic in lists of potential victims, or “leads,” many of whom had previously made an initial investment to create an online business with others in the scheme, authorities allege.
Leads were initially generated by sales floors operating in, among other places, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The operators of those sales floors also worked with telemarketers in the New York and New Jersey area, including in Manhattan.
Authorities contend that Shah and Smith generated and sold leads to other participants for use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as “leads” would be defrauded by them. They received a share of the fraudulent revenue per the terms of their agreement with those participants, according to authorities.
Shah and Smith made efforts to hide their roles in the business opportunity scheme, including incorporating their business entities using third parties and sending fraud proceeds to offshore bank accounts, authorities say.
“These individuals allegedly targeted and defrauded hundreds of victims but thanks to the hard work of the NYPD and our law enforcement partners, this illegal scheme was brought to an end,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement.